A short, bright flash in the pan
It would seem that the clear choice for November’s Brooklyn Dodgers birthday boy should be Roy Campanella. Yet, me thinks this writer, that there is precious little one can share about Roy Campanella that hasn’t already been shared in various media forms. Was it for me to re-argue the Campy-Yogi, who’s the best catcher argument? I’m biased. Should I make you morose all over again, replaying the crippling accident that ended his career? I’m a nicer guy than that. Shoot his impressive stats at you? Share his ride from the Negro Leagues to the Dodgers? His unique ability to know when one of his pitchers needed gentling or a verbal kick you know where? Old news.
Before I get to this month’s choice, I do want to debunk again the fake news some reported and others spread that Campanella was drunk, that he lost control of it on the Belt Parkway and became a quadriplegic as a result. Not true. Like most players of that era, even the best, Campy has a second job. He owned a liquor store in Harlem. That fateful night, he had closed up late and was on his way home. His car hit a patch of black ice on “the belt” and went out of control. As Ruth Ann used to say, “And dat’s da troot!”
Some players are flashes in the pan; some of the flashes are short, some a little longer. Remember Mark Fydrich “The Bird?” One day his talents just flew the coop. Herb Score, the brilliant, unhittable lefty who took a line drive in the face and could never face a batter again? My choice this year is Ben Wade, someone who blazed his way to the majors, wasn’t there long, but nonetheless manufactured a memorable career in baseball. Baseball Reference says this right-hander from Moorhead, NC had 19 wins and 17 losses in his five years in the bigs. He was long and lanky at 6’3″ tall and 195 lbs. His ERA was a bit over 4. Not HOF stats. But running one’s finger along the line, one sees he did have a particular talent. He is credited with 25 saves in that not very long career. He was durable. He pitched 325 innings and fanned 235 batters. That throwing arm got to the majors with a lot of wear and tear on it. After 16 minor league seasons he had pitched 2000 innings. He garnered 148 wins.
Sometimes it isn’t only what you do but also when you do it. Checking with Wiki, we learn “in 1953, Wade had a 7–5 win-loss record along with a 3.79 earned run average as a relief pitcher, helping the Dodgers win their second consecutive National League pennant. In the only postseason appearance of his major league career, Wade gave up four runs in two appearances during the 1953 World Series as the Dodgers once again lost to the New York Yankees in six games. He played in his final major league game on June 12, 1955, at the age of 32.
In a five-season major league career, Wade posted a 19–17 record with 235 strikeouts and a 4.34 ERA in 3711⁄3 innings pitched. Wade also pitched 16 seasons in the minor leagues, winning 146 games and pitching over 2,000 innings for thirteen different teams.”
The baseball mound was done with Wade, but Wade was not done with baseball. Wade had an eye for talent. He made his real mark on baseball as a scout.
The Dodgers hired Wade as a scout in 1962. They promoted him to “director of scouting in 1973. As the Dodger’s director of scouting, he supplied the team with players that would lead it to eight National League championships and four World Series titles during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The Dodgers earned seven Rookie of the Year awards in sixteen years, starting with Rick Sutcliffe in 1979. Dodgers players drafted during Wade’s tenure as scouting director included; Mike Piazza, Dave Steward, Mike Scioscia, Bob Welch, Steve Sax, Mike Marshall, Steve Howe, Orel Hershiser, John Franc, and Eric Karros. He held the director of scouting post until his retirement after the end of the 1990 season.
Wade died of cancer at the age of 80 in Los Angeles on December 2, 2002.”
When November 25 comes around, let’s give a tip of the ole cap to Ben Wade, who only did a two-plus year stint with the Bums, but turned it into a career that left an indelible mark on the organization.
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